With visions of landing another Mathew Barzal dancing in his head, Lou Lamoriello approaches the upcoming NHL Draft secure in the knowledge that he has chosen well in the past. Very well, as a matter of fact.
The Islanders‘ spanking new director of hockey operations — not to mention general manager — constructed three New Jersey Cup-winners with a sprinkling of A-1 draft picks. They included the following:
Third Cup (2003): Brian Gionta, Mike Rupp, Brodeur, Brylin, Elias, Niedermayer, Gomez and Daneyko.
Picking in the 11th and 12th positions, Lamoriello likely will try to bolster his defense while grabbing goaltending insurance.
He knows he won’t find a Rasmus Dahlin, the Swedish sensation most likely to be nabbed by the Sabres. But shoring up the defense is a must and a potential ace backliner will be in Lamoriello’s crosshairs.
Likewise, Filip Zadina and Andrei Svechnikov, both right wings figure to go before Lou’s turn to pick. Then what?
THE FOLLOWING IS THE MAVEN’S EDUCATED GUESS AS HOW THE ISLANDERS WILL SELECT
1. WITH THE 11TH PICK
BODE WILDE: Defenseman, USA National Team Development Program (NTDP) – The 6-2, 196-pounder from Montreal has the raw tools and can play a physical game. Most needs — good size, speed and stickhandling — are fulfilled in Wilde’s repertoire. One scout offers this: “Wilde looks like a million bucks because he can really skate and has great puck skills.”
JOEL FARABEE: Left Wing, NTDP – You name it, this kid has got it; even to the point of blocking shots, penalty-killing while also adept at finding the back of the enemy’s net. A native of Cicero, N.Y. (near Syracuse), Joltin’ Joel is headed to Boston University to hone his skills. At 6-0, 168 pounds, Farabee has some filling out to do but that will come. His energy and skill levels are above average. With a few more milkshakes, he’ll be just fine.
2. WITH THE 12TH PICK
RASMUS SANDIN: Defenseman – Hey, if you can’t have Rasmus Dahlin, why not try another Swedish Rasmus who’s highly regarded on the blue line. After emigrating to Ontario, Sandin has performed well. His hockey sense is deluxe while his passing skills have drawn oohs and ahhs throughout the Ontario Hockey League. “He’s a solid all-around performer,” said one scout, “who moves the puck well.”
JOE VELENO: Center – The Quebec Major Junior League has nurtured such Hall of Fame centers as Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard. Not that I’m getting ahead of myself with this gifted pivot, but Veleno — who skated for Drummondville — made an impression as a hard-working leader. The Hockey News observes: “If there’s one thing we can certainly glean from Veleno, it’s that the kid takes his hockey seriously.”
WHAT ONE EXPERT BELIEVES LAMORIELLO MIGHT DO WITH HIS DRAFT PICKS
The Athletic‘s Arthur Staple believes that Lou will deal his top picks. “Whether that means both the numbers 11 and 12 picks are in play on the trade market is hard to gauge, but adding in the number 41 and 43 picks in the second round, it seems likely that Lamoriello will be the major wheeler-dealer among the 31 general managers.”
Assuming that the Isles try to pry Philipp Grubauer from the Capitals, Staple figures one possibility would go like this: The Isles offer a second-round and a prospect or both second-rounders to bolster their goaltending force.
MOST RECENT PAST PROSPECTS
RYAN PULOCK: DEFENSE – Drafted 15th overall in 2013. The hard-shooting blueliner developed at a slow — some would say comfortable — pace but became a mainstay late in the 2017-18 season. All signs indicate that he’ll be part of the top-four core.
See how Ryan Pulock became the first rookie defenseman in the NHL since 2007 to record five points in a single game.
JOSH HO-SANG – Drafted 28th overall in 2014. Arriving with considerable fuss and fanfare, Ho-Sang’s offensive gifts were counter-balanced by his inability to satisfy his coaches in terms of fitting into the club’s game plan. Like Barzal, Josh has infinite scoring weapons but still must show the new general staff that he’s NHL-worthy, long-term.
ANTHONY BEAUVILLIER – Drafted 28th overall in 2015. He may not be as flashy as his linemate, Barzal, but his speed and fearlessness earned him a regular berth — especially since he most-recently developed a scoring touch.
BEST THREE ISLANDERS PICKS OF THE LAST DECADE
JOSH BAILEY – Drafted 9th overall in 2008. Slow to develop his potential, Bailey came into his own as wingman for captain John Tavares. Lauded for his defensive work, Bailey also emerged as an excellent playmaker as well a scorer over the last two years; good enough to make the All-Star Game lineup.
JOHN TAVARES – Drafted first overall in 2009. Easily the most coveted of his class, Tavares fulfilled his notices and became the face of the hockey club. His goal-scoring ability has matched his leadership and playmaking skills.
MAT BARZAL – Drafted 16th overall in 2015. If the lad has a “weakness,” it’s not his fault that so many misspell his first name. While Mathew failed to make the club the first time around, he certainly turned heads in 2017-18. Blending speed with a remarkable ability to maintain puck-possession, Barzal leaped to the head of the rookie class and completed his season as the odds-on favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s best freshman.